To Covet; Not to Covet

“I covet your prayers.”

I have heard this sentence uttered many times.

Then there is the Tenth Commandment:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17

So what does to covet mean? How can I be obedient to God yet still covet someone’s prayers?

Of course, that leads me on a word study!

In the Hebrew:

חָמַד

ḥāmaḏ, châmad

to desire, take pleasure in, delight in, to delight greatly, desire greatly, to lust

From the very beginning, the word, covet, was used in different ways.

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6

Looking closer at this Hebrew word in the two contexts:

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10

For He grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him,
and no beauty that we should desire Him
. Isaiah 53:2

Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
…. Proverbs 6:25

They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
Micah 2:2

And then in the Greek:

ἐπιθυμέω

epithymeō (Key word)

to set one’s heart upon, to have a desire for, to have a longing for (especially for what is forbidden); absolutely, to desire; have a craving for; to lust after, covet, of those who seek things forbidden, to have desires opposed to a thing, to long for, covet a thing; of sexual desire; a longing

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11-12

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

Where is my heart? Is it for God only? Or is it straddling the line between Heaven and the world? Or is it for the world only?

God wants things for us. Where the line is drawn is in the position of my heart and mind. They need to be rightly fixed upon the Lord. He has a plan for me. His will for me most likely includes some “things.” Whether or not there are “worldly” things, His will is what I must desire. He will provide. I am to trust Him for my needs. I should have no need to be jealous or envious of others’ things. Envy and jealousy are not to be a part of my mind nor my heart. I am to be growing in holiness as He sanctifies me. Thus, I am to be content in all I am and all I have while I walk with and near to my Christ. So when one “covets” my prayers, my love, my care, or my concern, they are desiring these for the possibility of being touched by the hand of God, for He may be using me on behalf of my brother or sister in Christ. My heart and mind need to be directed to God and not at myself, nor even to the person coveting my prayers. God is the focal point from which those prayers, that love or care is coming from and is directed by Him through me if my heart and mind are right with God.

Romans 7:4-8:2 is a long passage yet it is extremely important to what I am wishing to learn through these two meanings of covet. Plus, these verses show me how confused I can become when I lean on my own understanding. Take your time and read these verses slowly.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:4-8:2

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Romans 7: The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. … For as the believer is under grace, and his will is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in the law of God, and in the holiness which it demands, according to his inward man; that new man in him, which after God is created in true holiness.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. I Timothy 6:6-10

Father, guard my heart and mind that I would always be content in all of my circumstances. I want to walk in Your ways for the rest of my life, Lord. I do not desire to be jealous or envious. Please forgive me when I am. I am sorry. Teach me to love all, Lord, no matter how rich or poor. I have been given the greatest gift of all. This gift is Christ, Your Son. I have been saved by the Blood of the Lamb and have all that there is to have. He gave His all for me. I do not need to want what others have. I do not need to wish for anything but to walk in His grace for the rest of my days. I want to walk a straight and narrow path to Your heart. I want to be close to You and desire that which You desire for me. Teach me to be content. Teach me to covet that which You have already planned and prepared for me. Guard my eyes and ears, my heart and mind from things of this world. May I look, listen, love and contemplate Heavenward and that way alone. You created me and know every bit of me. You also love me, so please guard and guide me, Father, that I covet only that which You orchestrate for me. I pray that I not covet anything against Your will. In the strong Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Cross photo (w/”Coveting” graphic by me): WebStockReview.net

“Do Not Covet” graphic: First Baptist St. Charles

Cloud photo by Pexels (w/graphics by me) @ Pixabay

Graphic Roman 7:22-8:2 @ Desiring God/Youtube

Charles Spurgeon quote on photograph from Pinterest

9 thoughts on “To Covet; Not to Covet

  1. Maryleigh Bucher

    Linda, I’ve never been comfortable with the phrase “covet your prayers” – for a host of reasons. It either sounds churchy or like someone using a $10 word to impress. (Do I sound judgey here? LOL) – Or, it makes me take a step backward in surprise – because to covet my prayers makes it sound like my prayers are better than someone else’s – and that isn”t so. I enjoyed your word study for this hard word – Amen and Amen to your prayer! Shalom! Maryleigh

    Liked by 1 person

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